So near yet so far. That was the tale for both the teams as the Ranji Trophy Elite Group A game between Mumbai and Saurashtra ended in a thrilling draw at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday.
Table-toppers Saurashtra — who went for a challenging target of 285 runs off 72 overs only to pull the shutters down after captain Jaydev Unadkat fell as the seventh wicket with the team needing 27 runs off 22 balls — would be ruing an opportunity to register its maiden win against domestic giant Mumbai. The home team, on the other hand, would be more disappointed despite making a strong comeback in the last hour.
Having failed to notch up its maiden win of the season and keep itself as a serious contender in the race for knockouts, Mumbai will now have to win its last two games and hope for a plethora of other results to go its way to qualify for the quarterfinal.
Had it not been for Jay Bista’s brilliance in the field and Minad Manjrekar’s fiery short-pitch stuff, Mumbai would have suffered the ignominy of losing the match after gaining the lead for the second time this season.
When Vishvarajsinh Jadeja (71, 129b, 2x4, 2x6) and Sheldon Jackson (57, 118b, 4x4) were milking the bowling around and moving Saurashtra closer to the target, Mumbai had to adopt an ultra-defensive stance. In the 56th over, 10 balls before the last 15 overs were to begin, Bista’s off-balanced direct hit from point ended the 113-run stand.
Still, at the last drinks break, with a set Jackson joined by an aggressive Prerak Mankad and the visitor needing 86 runs off 15 overs, it was Saurashtra’s match to lose. With spread-out fields, the duo continued to focus more on picking twos — and there were plenty on offer.
With 55 runs required off 10 overs, Manjrekar — the quickest pacer in Mumbai’s bowling unit — brought the host back with impressive short balls.
Jackson, who had perished to a Manjrekar short ball in the first innings, holed out to Shivam Dube at deep point off the first ball of the over. Mankad’s slash off the penultimate delivery skied straight to Royston Dias at third man.
Chirag Jani and Arpit Vasavada then kept Saurashtra in the hunt. However, soon after caressing Manjrekar through the point region and following it up with a pull that landed in the second tier of the Divecha Pavilion, Saurashtra was within a touching distance. The lanky bowler, however, got one to bounce awkwardly off the rough and the ball lobbed to keeper Aditya Tare after kissing Vasavada’s edge.
When Manjrekar got Unadkat to pull another short ball to square leg in his next over, Mumbai hoped for a miraculous win. But Jani and Dharmendrasinh Jadeja then dropped guard and saw off the next 20 balls without further damage.
Brief scores: Mumbai 394 & 238-8 decl. (S Iyer 83; C Sakariya 3-47, J Unadkat 2-44); Saurashtra 348 & 266-7 (V Jadeja 71, S Jackson 57; M Manjrekar 4-39).
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